Claire Åkebrand is a Swede who grew up in Germany. She has a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing from Brigham Young University. Her poetry has been published in Inscape, Metaphor, and X-Magazine: Daring New Poetry and Prose and she was nominated for the AWP Intro Journals Contest. Claire currently lives in Baltimore.
You played father because you were a head
taller, your hair cut shorter. You’d pull rocks
out of the brook and imagined it was bread.
We’d pretend to bake flat stones like fish, pick
at the gray flesh, and sigh and smack our lips
using lower-pitched voices to sound old.
And when we got thirsty, we cupped and sipped
the mossy air till our lungs were full of cold.
When we first found that tree curved over the brook
hidden from the playground, its hollow little room,
our hair was lighter and smelled musky as wood
from playing house in that elm tree tomb.
The only beds we had were our sweaters,
laid out over the dirt. But you never slept.
You were too anxious about raiding meadows
for the sugar buds of stinging nettles.
We never thought we’d find our old selves in the river’s
mirrors. The sky broke through in some places
like rumors of adulthood, with sun slivers
in the dark sieve of branches. We’d trace
the passage of time by the growing stillness
out on the playground. When was the last day
our mother called us out into the silence,
unto the pavement, into the open sky—
a blank canvas, like an empty sheet
we would have to spend the rest of our lives
filling until it covers us once again like trees,
like the roil of a brook, the murmur of hives?
Midnight rain gusts against the tent’s drape.
What height might the already tall waves since noon
have reached. No light illuminates the felted seascape.
Just a dim glow of froth, and dune,
waves all ruffled up pages of a book
no one has entirely read. How the sea pines
for a reader. I hear her slinging her hooks.
No one walks the shallows at this hour. Her brine
would tow me quickly to her heart. What sea
creatures might gape for me there.
Drowsing off, I’m swallowed, and reeled
again and again by the wake and snared
to a place each human has been before
to find nothing but the sallow ocean floor.
This violet, on her way to winter months, waits
beside me at the crosswalk—
her deflated sleeves,
her shivering waist, too skinny for that dress
for every last
hour of sun.
I cross, she stays.
I can't love one more dying thing.
God Almighty, might this violence
not follow me into the shadows of my home, of winter.